State Clears Harp In Petition Drive

Thomas MacMillan PhotoIn a conference call Friday afternoon with the city’s mayoral campaigns, state officials issued a much-awaited ruling: Candidate Toni Harp has not broken the law by teaming up with a city clerk candidate to get her name on the ballot.

That judgement capped a frenzied day of campaign maneuvering, triggered by questions raised about Harp’s effort to get on the Democratic primary ballot.

Mayoral candidate Kermit Carolina said he thinks the Harp campaign has still acted at least unethically, if not illegally. The Harp campaign denies the charge.

Harp, a state senator, and Carolina, principal of Hillhouse High, are running for mayor along with Justin Elicker, Henry Fernandez, and Sundiata Keitazulu.

Friday’s conference (pictured above) stemmed from a recent blunder by the Democratic Town Committee (DTC), which failed to file papers on time so that the party’s endorsed candidates—Harp for mayor, Michael Smart for city clerk, and 30 aldermanic candidates—would receive an automatic spot on the Sept. 10 primary ballot.

As a result, all the candidates will have to petition to get on the ballot, gathering 2,406 signatures from New Haven registered Democrats. Harp immediately kicked off her petition drive Thursday evening by teaming up with Smart so that both of their names appear on a single petition.

Friday morning, the Carolina campaign raised questions about the legality of that move. Carolina and attorney Michael Jefferson, a key aide to his campaign, said the Harp/Smart petitions were illegal, since the candidates had filed to run only as individuals, not as a slate.

The legal questions were finally answered at 4 p.m. in a fourth-floor conference room in City Hall. A dozen people, including city staff and representatives from several campaigns, gathered around a speakerphone in the offices of the corporation counsel.

Victor Bolden, the city’s top lawyer, first dialed up Ted Bromley from the secretary of the state’s office. Bromley said that, according to state statute, candidates are permitted to have more than one name on a ballot petition, as long as they are running for different offices.

“As far as we’re concerned, a slate is not an issue in terms of ballot access,” Bromley said.

Asked about ballot order, Bromley said that slates appear first on the ballot, in the order in which they submit their completed petitions. The rest of the candidates, who are not in slates, will appear in alphabetical order by last name.

Bromley also explained that people may not “circulate” petitions for more than one candidate for the same office. This means that if someone wants to help, say, city clerk candidate Sergio Rodriguez gather signatures to get on the ballot, that person can not also gather signatures for the Harp campaign, because he or she would be circulating for Smart at the same time.

Bromley encourage the campaigns to train their circulators about that point.

After the phone call, Jefferson raised the issue of campaign spending: Can the Harp campaign spend money to gather petitions that would also benefit the Smart campaign?

Bolden next patched in Shannon Kief and Marianne Sadowski of the State Elections Enforcement Commission to answer campaign finance questions.

Kief and Sadowski said it’s not illegal for campaigns to spend money on efforts that will benefit another campaign, as long as the costs are shared proportionately and reported individually.

Two candidates could, for instance, go in on the printing and mailing of a flyer with both their names on it, as long as they split the cost of the mailer. “That doesn’t violate campaign finance laws,” Kief said.

“It still looks unethical,” said Carolina as he took the City Hall elevator down to the first floor. He continued to assert that Connecticut General Statutes Section 9-406 prevents candidates from cooperating in the way Harp and Smart are doing.

“They’re gaming the system,” he said. “I don’t believe it’s legal.”

Carolina said Harp is taking advantage of a DTC blunder to get her name at the top of the ballot. “She should be placed at the bottom of the ballot” according to alphabetical order. “That is the law.”

“This entire exercise today was their effort to keep the senator off the ballot,” said Harp campaign manager Jason Bartlett. “I think that’s sad.”

Bartlett said the Harp campaign is simply taking legal measures to get Harp’s name on the ballot in the same position it would have been if the DTC hadn’t erred.

An earlier version of this story follows:

After an afternoon huddle Friday, city corporation counsel Victor Bolden ruled the city did not break the law by letting candidates Toni Harp and Mike Smart petition together to get onto the primary ballot, but left open questions about campaign spending.

Bolden (at left in photo) made those statements after conferring in the city clerk’s office Friday afternoon with Michael Jefferson (at right), a lawyer and aide to Kermit Carolina’s mayoral campaign.

The Carolina campaign Friday morning raised legal questions that may point to a second blunder in two days for the Harp campaign: The Harp campaign may have erred by beginning to circulate petitions to get her name on the ballot on a slate with city clerk candidate Michael Smart.

The campaign may have erred—or it may not have. Bolden said he will convene a conference call with the campaigns, the city, and the secretary of the state to try to resolve the matter.

In Bolden’s interpretation, the city did no wrong. He declined to comment on whether the Harp and Smart campaigns are on the right side of the law.

The Harp campaign began circulating ballot petitions Thursday night. It did so because of a first blunder, by the Democratic Town Committee. The DTC endorsed Harp’s candidacy at a convention Tuesday night. That was supposed to put Harp’s name on the Sept. 10 primary ballot without the need to collect signatures. But then the DTC failed to turn paperwork in on time to make that happen. That error was discovered Thursday, and a rush ensued to start collecting the 2,406 signatures of registered Democratic voters needed to put Harp’s name on the ballot. (Three other Democratic mayoral candidates—Henry Fernandez, Kermit Carolina, and Justin Elicker—are also gathering signatures for that purpose.)

The Harp campaign gathered hundreds of supporters for a spirited event at its headquarters Thursday night to set them off gathering petitions. They put clerk candidate Smart’s name on the petitions, too, so that Harp and Smart could run as a slate—and therefore retain a top spot on the primary ballot.

Then, on Friday morning, candidate Carolina’s campaign read up on the election law. According to its interpretation, Harp can’t put out petitions to run as part of a slate in the primary—because she has already formed an individual candidate campaign committee, not a slate committee. People have given money to her campaign, not a joint mayor-clerk campaign.

City officials scrambled Friday morning to get answers to the legal questions.

At 12:15 p.m., Bolden arrived in the clerk’s office armed with a book of Connecticut General Statutes. He and Jefferson pondered the law together for a half an hour and then announced their interpretations, which differed.

Bolden said the city’s Democratic registrar of voters was acting within the law when she issued petitions with both Smart and Harp’s name on them. He pointed to state statute 9-410, which states that “any one primary petition may propose as many candidates for different offices or positions as there are nominations to be made or positions to be filled.”

Jefferson disagreed. “We do not believe the registrar of voters was correct in placing those names on the petition.” He said the law assumes that Harp and Smart were already running as “a unit,” as an official slate of candidates, which isn’t the case. The two candidates have individual campaign committees, not a single slate committee.

Jefferson said questions still remain about what campaign finance laws have to say about the Harp and Smart campaigns collecting signatures together. If someone gave money to the Harp campaign, for instance, is it legal for her campaign to spend that money gathering signatures for another candidate?

Bolden said that’s a question that’s beyond his duties as city corporation counsel. He said his only concern is seeing that the city followed the law, not the campaigns.

Harp campaign manager Jason Bartlett said no money will be spent gathering signatures.

Carolina (pictured) said the Harp campaign will have to spend money on something to gather signatures, even if it’s just making copies.

“It’s still an issue of ethics,” said Carolina. “It still appears unethical.”

“I don’t think the voters deserve to see this kind of hypocrisy take place,” he said. “If this is what we have to look forward to as a city, then we’re in trouble if we don’t do anything about it.”

“What we’re seeing is a small group of people that again and again think there’s one set of rules for them and another for everyone else,” mayoral candidate Fernandez remarked Friday about the latest questions.

“It’s bothersome to know there are individuals going out of their way to try to make it difficult for Sen. Harp to get on the ballot to run for mayor. We waited 30 minutes-plus yesterday for the corporation counsel, Sally Brown, and [Registrar of Voters] Sharon Ferrucci, who asked the questions on our behalf, to ensure that what we were doing was legal and compliant. The corp counsel and Sally had a conference call with the secretary of the state. We were instructed that we were in compliance. The statutes were 9-410 and 9-437. So for them to raise the question today after they had a 40-minute conference call with the secretary of the state’s office is troubling,” Bartlett said.

“You can’t switch midstream. People donated to you, not to a slate,” argued attorney Jefferson. “It raises serious questions about municipal campaign finance.”

“In terms of the Carolina campaign, their attorney seems to be confusing the issue,” Bartlett said. “We are on a petition with Michael Smart for the purpose of gaining access to the ballot. That is all we are doing. We are not ending our candidate committee and filing as a slate committee with Mr. Smart. Under no circumstances are we reporting financially in any way. We are running our campaign. He’s running his campaign in terms of finances.”

Who’s Paying?

Meanwhile, Downtown Alderman Doug Hausladen raised questions Friday about a statement made by DTC Chairman Jackie James at the Thursday night’s petition event at Harp headquarters. James said the DTC would work hard to get Harp on the ballot through the drive.

Hausladen—who is supporting mayoral candidate Elicker against Harp—noted that because of the DTC’s paperwork filing goof this week, the primary ballot will not have a position for an officially endorsed DTC candidate. Therefore, he said, the DTC should not spend any money on petition drives for candidates.

“It’s important that we follow the bylaws of the Democratic Party,” Hausladen said.

Harp campaign manager Bartlett responded that no money will be spent on the petition drive, including no money from the DTC.

“These will be volunteers 100 percent. There will be no money spent on this petition drive,” Bartlett said.

“Just because Henry Fernandez or Justin Elicker have to pay people to get signatures, that’s their problem,” Bartlett said. “We had over 300 volunteers in our headquarters excited” to collect signatures.

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posted by: AverageTaxpayer on July 26, 2013  11:04am

Zoo Haven!

posted by: Power Broker on July 26, 2013  11:16am

How is this Corporation Counsel Victor Bolden’s job?  Shouldn’t Harp and Smart have to hire their own counsel?

posted by: urban ed on July 26, 2013  11:19am

Wow. Amateur Hour. Hope folks are paying attention.

posted by: jim1 on July 26, 2013  11:21am

Looks clear cut to me..  Start all over. Get those 2600 names.

posted by: jim1 on July 26, 2013  11:24am

Now who pays for this Toni or Mike?? Or do they split it 50/50?

posted by: FacChec on July 26, 2013  11:25am

There is also a statue in Chapter 153
pertaining to the position(s) on the ballot. In this case since there is no party designated
party endorsed candidates the following applies: Note: read carefully.

Sec. 9-453r. Position of candidates’ names on ballot. (a) A separate row on the ballot shall be used for a petitioning candidate whose name is contained in a petition approved pursuant to section 9-453o, bearing a party designation. A separate row shall be used for the petitioning candidates whose names are contained in petitions approved pursuant to section 9-453o, bearing the same party designation. Within such a separate row, the order of the names of such candidates for the same multiple-opening office shall be determined by the registrars of voters by lot in a ceremony which shall be open to the public. The registrars of voters shall provide at least five days public notice for each such ceremony.

    (b) On the horizontal rows below the rows so used for candidates, if any, who are so entitled to a party designation on the voting machines, shall be placed, in the appropriate office columns, the names of candidates contained in petitions approved pursuant to section 9-453o bearing no party designation. Such candidates shall not be entitled to separate rows. Precedence as to horizontal row between or among such candidates shall be determined, if necessary, by the order in which their applications for petitions were filed with the Secretary of the State from the earliest to the latest; provided that within any such horizontal row the names of as many of such candidates for the same multiple-opening office as such row will accommodate shall be placed before placing the names of other such candidates for such office on the next such row. The order of the names of such candidates for the same multiple-opening office, within and between any such horizontal rows, shall be determined by the registrars of voters by lot in a ceremony.

posted by: TheWizard on July 26, 2013  12:15pm

This is crazy!

Toni has already claimed the primary victory;

Why should she now have to bother with all this hassle about following the rules?

posted by: anonymous on July 26, 2013  12:37pm

If the paperwork was not filed, it is accurate to say that Harp has the DTC endorsement?

If there are no officially endorsed candidates, why isn’t the DTC working equally hard to get other candidates on the primary ballot?

posted by: Curious on July 26, 2013  12:56pm

When you read this…

“No candidate shall establish, agree to or assist in establishing, or give his consent or authorization to establishing a committee other than a single candidate committee to promote his candidacy for any public office except that a candidate may establish an exploratory committee ... No later than fifteen days after a public declaration by the candidate of the candidate’s intention to seek nomination or election to a particular public office, the candidate shall form a single candidate committee.”’s pretty clear that Harp’s campaign is assisting and/or promoting Mike Smart by helping get his name on the ballot.  There’s no other way to read that.  She is 100% assisting another candidate, unless somehow Mike Smart her conjoined twin.

posted by: David S Baker on July 26, 2013  1:29pm

Justin, I want at least $100 and a lawn sign for gathering signatures last night because slogging from house to house in that deluge listening to people gripe about Tony over and over was tedious.  And at times hilarious.  But ultimately I got wet and my dinner was cold when I got home and I missed Jeopardy.  Bartlett says you owe me money you stingy gigner so pay up.

posted by: Amityboy on July 26, 2013  2:17pm

Yeah, as someone collecting signatures for Elicker, he’s not paying us… Trust me, the insane incompetence of the alternative is incentive enough.

posted by: HewNaven on July 26, 2013  2:41pm

I’m so happy Kermit Carolina is in this race for Mayor. He’s brought a lot of important issues to the conversation, and in many ways has shaped the discussion. I hope he can continue in this role even if he does not win.

posted by: madereinerue on July 26, 2013  2:42pm

FacChec, your Heart’s in the right place but the Fac is, you got the wrong Statute.

Your Sec 9-453r governs ballot positioning of what are commonly called “independent” petitioning candidates—i.e., “new party” and/or “no party” candidates—at an *Election.*

Ballot position at a party *Primary* is governed by Sec. 9-437. Since it’s a LOT lengthier & more complicated than 9-453r, I’ll paste just some pertinent excerpts, from the first subsection (of twelve!) here. If you have great fortitude you can go read the whole thing (and weep :).

Sec. 9-437. Form of ballot. Position of candidates’ names on ballot. Sample ballots. Voting instructions and information.
[In Part]
(a) At the top of each ballot shall be printed the name of the party holding the primary, and each ballot shall contain the names of all candidates to be voted upon at such primary…On the first horizontal line, below the designation of the office or position in each column, shall be placed the name of the party-endorsed candidate for such office or position, such name to be marked with an asterisk..In the case of no party endorsement there shall be inserted the designation “no party endorsement” at the head of the vertical column, immediately beneath the designation of the office or position. On the horizontal lines below the line for party-endorsed candidates shall be placed, in the appropriate columns, the names of all other candidates as hereinafter provided.

posted by: Brutus2011 on July 26, 2013  2:57pm

to “David S Baker:”

Thanks. I needed a good LOL.

We’ve officially entered Bizzaro-World.

posted by: DRAD on July 26, 2013  3:57pm

Make no mistake - Kermit did the Harp campaign a HUGE favor by bringing this issue to everyone’s attention today rather than. . . say ten days from now, when, if these petitions are found to be in error - there might not have been enough time do it all over yet again.  Just imagine if the Harp campaign failed to make the ballot because the couldn’t follow directions (twice!).

posted by: beyonddiscussion on July 26, 2013  4:00pm

Wow. This is the best that Carolina can do. All he does is attack folks. Now he’s going after Harp’s city-approved petition. Geez.
Btw: would love to know why no one in the Registrars’ Office or City Clerk’s Office gave a quick heads-up to the Dems or the Repubs? They don’t have to but I’m sure they could have if they wanted to, if you know what I mean.  I bet they’ve given such a heads-up in the past.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on July 26, 2013  4:19pm

To Power Broker: Bolden is in because the Dem. Registrar of Voters issued the petitions.

posted by: Beth19 on July 26, 2013  5:04pm

New Haven looks like a big joke.  Kermit Carolina and Michael Jefferson dictating what they think the law reads is more than funny; it is right out of “Idiocracy” (great movie)
The Harp campaign should never have let this fiasco occur; they should have made sure papers were filed correctly and in the correct place.  Looks like Fernandez and Elicker are the only two viable candidates far.

posted by: Curious on July 26, 2013  6:57pm

So what is to stop Harp from putting herself, Smart, and all 30 of the DTC-affiliated candidates for alderman on the same petition?

If they can put two of them on the same petition, why not 32?

posted by: stick21 on July 26, 2013  10:15pm

Nice try Kermit “By Any Means Necessary” Carolina. Still coming up with craps and looking silly while doing it. I love it.

Definitely the most entertaining candidate in his temporary run for mayor…. No class, ill prepared and misguided.

posted by: NewHavenerToo on July 26, 2013  10:25pm

Ms.  Harp can go on and collect signatures, but don’t bother me when I’m coming home from a long day at work.  My candidate’s sign is in the front of my house.  Thank you!

posted by: Bill Saunders on July 27, 2013  12:07am


I am just waiting for the knock on my door, so the Harpies can get some direct citizen’s feedback.

posted by: Tell the Truth & Shame the Devil on July 27, 2013  9:53am

The Epitome of the “Angry Black Men’s Club”, Carolina, Jefferson , and Highsmith.

When as I quote, Kermit said at a Super Bowl Party, ” We are going to take over New Haven.”, I knew this was the wrong campaign to support.

Carolina as Mayor, Mike as Corporate Council, and Highsmith as Superintendent = DETROIT!!!!!!

posted by: Burbel on July 27, 2013  10:59am

Excellent point, Curious. The answer should be that organizing thirty two candidates would take precious hours away from the main concern, which is Harp. A related issue is that a different petition would have to be created for each ward, since the Alder candidate in Ward A isn’t on the ballot in Ward B. This creates a further complication, since if I think I live in Ward B, but I live in Ward A, and I sign the petition for Harp, Smart, and AlderforB, my signature is invalidated for all three.

Also, Harp needs to get her petition in first, since the ballot order is now according to the order of who filed valid petitions. If Fernandez or Elicker is first in the door on Monday and their petitions are valid, that individual is on Row A. This of course raises the entertaining scenario that if all three campaigns are at the door when the office opens on Monday, there might be some jostling - verbal or otherwise (although I believe the issue would have to be resolved by lottery or a flip of a coin).

The other problem is checking to make sure everybody circulating a petition is doing it the right way. They have to collect enough signatures so that when some are disqualified (as they always are) for reasons such as not being a registered voter, or not being registered as a Democrat (or not living in the right Ward).

Otherwise getting the whole slate done would be a logical division of labor, as well as fair to everybody. All of that said, individual alders should have no trouble collecting the miniscule number of signatures required to be on the ballot.

posted by: momnprof on July 27, 2013  11:54am

So pathetic. it is time for professional to be in charge in this town. Please!

posted by: southwest on July 27, 2013  6:52pm

Enough now, I have sit back for the last two months and listen to you two, Jefferson and Carolina attack Toni. To Carolina an Jefferson i just want to say that people who live in glass houses like you two should never throw stones. Carolina you are always talking about unethical by advice from your lawyer Jefferson. I’m sure a lot of thing you two have done in the pass is unethical if there were a major investigation done??? Why are you two so angry and have hate for the black woman candidate Toni Harp. Jefferson stated that Destefano was a slave driver something to that effect, Jefferson hate the police he said there is no such thing as a good cop and his sister in-law was the best.  I’m not making this up just google some of the things Jefferson has said or done.. It goes way way back when he locked himself in the radio station at Whalley an Sherman when he was told to cease and exit.  He appear to be a smart young man but his anger is unacceptable.. So if Carolina become mayor the tax payers of New Haven will be paying for these frivolous lawsuits because of two angry men who want things there way and not the way the court system rules. That’s why we have a system in place to make laws wether you like them or not, because it don’t go the way we as a person want them to go.. Suck it up that’s life. Why don’t you two do something positive find a solution to stop our black males in the hood from killing one another instead of the blame game, use your energy for that. Direct your angry toward finding a solution because that’s where it’s needed..

Toni Harp isn’t perfect neither or you and the other three candidates she is gracious and humble and try to treat people with the respect that she want to receive from them..Motto do unto others as you would want them to do unto you. All of the male candidates have wife’s so how would you feel if someone did that to your significant other???  People are fed up with stupidity in this mayoral race.. stick to the issues..

posted by: Beth19 on July 28, 2013  6:21am

I am just curious:  if being a principal is a 12 month position, where is Carolina finding the time to run his school?  The BOE seems to be giving him a lot of leeway here.  How is he going to run his elections and a school - a failing school?  Most principals don’t have enough hours in the day just to run their schools. I’m just asking.

posted by: Brutus2011 on July 28, 2013  10:29am

to Beth

This is New Haven.

Logic only applies vis-a-vis political corruption.

Who they are does not matter.

Local municipal politics here may have been forever been tainted by the czar-ship of John I.

posted by: cedarhillresident! on July 28, 2013  10:07pm

Wow I take off for a few days and this all happened Holy cow! First thing that came to mind was that the Karma gods (was at Vibes so I am all Karma like right now) anywho..the Karma gods did not take kindly to the claiming the elections thing. The Karma gods keep trying to level the playing field for the 2 democracy fund candidate (Elicker and Carolina). It was not one thing, it is one thing after another after another. How can people still think that she is good for New Haven? I want ethics, I want integrity, I want a platform that I can read and count on. I want a candidate that tells me the truth and the facts, not false promises and one liners!
Again this just shows that Elicker is our candidate for the future of New Haven!

posted by: westville man on July 29, 2013  9:14am

Southwest, Tell the “truth” & Beth 19-

C’mon now, really?  3 intelligent Black men with advanced degrees who’ve been fighting for the rights of children & the downtrodden get labelled as “angry black men” who hate black women (Harp), cops and are supposedly saying “we are going to take over New Haven”?
Why is this vitriol reserved for Black men only?  Do any of you know these men personally?  I can tell you Kermit NEVER said anything about “taking over” New Haven.  His heart has always been in the same place since I’ve known him for over 20 years- taking care of the children and poor folks of New Haven. And I will submit he’s done MORE of that than any of the commentariat here, including myself.
And so have Jefferson and Highsmith. Their commitment to this city dwarf 98% of the rest of us residents- and i consider my resume here impressive.
Disagree with their tactics, policies, or personalities but don’t demean and impugn their commitment, intelligence or abilities- just because yours pales in comparison.

posted by: westville man on July 29, 2013  9:38am

PS-  Beth, since your “just asking”- kermit is in school every day.  He is using his accumulated vacation time to run for Mayor- mostly in the late afternoon, nights and weekends.
HH High has improved in nearly every category since he took over 3 years ago. It’s not “failing” like it was when he took over. Just ask Harp’s camp- they made that mistake to the press and had to remove their collective feet from their mouths when caught out on it.